News / Africa

Nigerian Bombing Suspect Visited U.S. City in 2008

Multimedia

Audio

Limited details have emerged in recent days about a visit to Houston, Texas by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in August, 2008. It’s not clear if U.S. investigators were tracking the suspect at the time or whether or not they failed to detect any radical ties that should have enabled them to elevate Abdulmutallab’s status on a U.S. terror watch list to strip him of his visa or place him on the critical no-fly list. 
 

   
Nigerian-born journalist Chido Nwangwu publishes USAfrica’s Class magazine and runs the USAfrica Online website from Houston, which is home to more than 100-thousand Nigerian expatriates living in the United States.  He says that the man who attempted to blow up Northwest Airlines flight 253 near Detroit on Christmas Day spent his time in Houston pursuing religious studies at an islamic institute there.
   
“He attended an Islamic education program at the Al Maghrib Institute in Houston.  That is the only knowledge of public information that we all have of his reasons for visiting here,” he said.
   
U.S. officials have confirmed they are looking into Abdulmutallab’s travels since the June 2008 visa he was issued, but the FBI has refused comment. Publisher Nwangwu says he was unable to confirm whether investigators were on the suspect’s trail almost one and a half years ago. He claims no insight into whether those who may have been tracking the Nigerian had cause to tie him to radical influences that could have raised his profile to refuse entry into the United States the following year. 
 

   
In addition, Nwangwu says there were no signs if a recent police tip by Abdulmutallab’s Nigerian father, former First Bank of Nigeria chairman Umaru Abdul Mutallab, had been heeded by security officials in Houston.  The senior Abdul Mutallab has been widely praised for his courage in coming forward to sound an alert to U.S. officials.  He is expected to travel to the United States this week to attend his son’s arraignment, likely on January 8 in Detroit, Michigan
 

   
“Of course there were the ties with Al Maghrib Institute, which has offices in London and Canada.  My office, U.S. Africa, also attempted to speak with the other branches of Al Maghrib in order to understand why the young man did not do his studies in London.  I also asked about Houston, who paid or who registered him for the courses.  There are so many questions.  Who facilitated his movements? Who picked him up from his hotel?  Who dropped him off? Where did he have his lunch during the training?” asked Nwangwu.
   
On Monday, U.S. officials placed tighter new security measures on air travelers from 14 countries considered to be added security risks.  Nwangwu admits the guidelines are adding concern among Nigerians in his community who frequently travel back and forth to Africa.  He says they are disappointed that the acts of one reckless individual can slur the international image of an entire nation.  But he understands the need for U.S. officials to do all they can to protect the security of Americans.

“It will not be unrealistic, but it would be unfair to group the whole community.  The community abhors such violence.  The community abhors what I call mechanized bigotry.  And it’s understandable to look for those who make trouble or seek to inflict terror, to kill people of all faiths, of all communities.  The point also is that if he had unleashed a plot that was concluded successfully, Nigerians on that flight would have also been killed,” noted Nwangwu.
   
One official trying to get to the bottom of the investigation is one of two Houston African-American members of the U.S. Congress.  Nwangwu says that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who chairs the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, shares concerns for the safety of all Americans, including the thousands of foreign-born people living and working in the Houston area.  Nwangwu also plans to meet Tuesday with Houston’s other African-American U.S. congressman, Rep. Al Green.
   
“On an intellectual level, it is very wrong to engage in group profiling or to band everybody in one basket,” he says. 
   
“In terms of the operational reality of saying that if a flight or certain travelers are coming from any place where there is potential danger, they should take a second look for the safety of everyone -- that is not too much to ask.  It is an entirely different matter. I vehemently oppose anyone saying that Nigerians are terrorists.  No, Nigerians are not,” he observed.
   
Although Umar Abdulmutallab’s mission originated in Ghana, Ghana was not among the countries cited Monday as U.S. security risks.  Journalist Nwangwu acknowledges that flying from Ghana to Nigeria reduced Abdulmutallab’s holdover at Lagos’ Murtalla Muhammed Airport from two hours to a 30-minute holdover and suggests that other countries outside this week’s U.S. restrictions also pose threats of international terrorism to American cities.
   
“Egypt holds a significant number of radical Islamic zealots.  (Ayman) Al-Zawahiri, one of the twin leaders of al-Qaida, is an Egyptian.  There are radical elements in Egypt.  They were not listed.  So the Obama administration needs to look a little further.  I know they are being sensitive to the fact that the young man was in a transition movement,” he explained.
   
To counter tighter restrictions, Nwangwu points out that what he calls “evil geniuses” will continue to devise creative, innovative ways to get around the regulations.  The Houston journalist says he supports international efforts to plug the loopholes. But also recalling that the September, 2001 attacks all originated within the United States, he contends that there is no substitute for stepped-up vigilance on all possible fronts.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid